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Tal R Yellow Monkey

Tal R: Yellow Monkey

Reincarnation: the rise of Hastings Contemporary

Jerwood Gallery has changed its name, changed its status a few years ago to a charity, and is now independent. So what will you see that’s different? HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went along to the gallery in its new incarnation as Hastings Contemporary.

First thing, first: the name has changed – to Hastings Contemporary, which echoes Turner (in Margate) and Nottingham Contemporary; the gallery has lost its Jerwood connection –with its funds – and its collection. However, it is going to continue with contemporary culture although it will also include English modern 20th century art. It has also pledged to continue to support painting and drawing.

The beach

Tal R: The Beach

Local people are generally perplexed about the change. It seemed sudden, unexpected and quite a brutal cut. The Jerwood Foundation was not necessarily greeted in the town as a brilliant organisation in the way they worked but it did give an imprimatur and presence to the gallery in the outside art world.

So I asked director Liz Gilmore what happened. I wasn’t expecting a real answer but I was surprised by what she said: “I am also perplexed.” Negotiations were under way between the gallery and the foundation about moving towards a greater independence. “I thought we were all in agreement and then there was an announcement in the press and things changed. So I simply don’t know.”

In the past the Jerwood collaborated with other galleries and foundations to produce interesting exhibitions: dove-tailing the invited gallery’s art with the Jerwood collection to embellish and support, in the process helping make the Jerwood collection more robust and substantial.

 Quentin Blake The New Dress

Quentin Blake: The New Dress

They have kept the staff members, membership and entrance rates the same but upped the amount of guests a member can take in. There are about a dozen different funding sources; however, entry ticket  and memberships account for about one third of funding.

And this year there has been one substantial, anonymous donation of £250,000 – which all helps to plug a gap. Sir Quentin Blake, local resident and Hastings Contemporary Artist Patron, has been hugely accommodating in the past by producing a raft of new drawings to sell at the Gallery.

Liz Gilmore says, “I would really love to get rid of entrance fees but since those and membership go a long way to support and subside the learning and participatory projects that we run we cannot do that for the time being.” The thing that is most requested is entry to the café without paying entrance fees. Whether that will ever happen, who knows? Though Liz concedes, “We are listening”.

Three exhibitions on the go

With the launch of Hastings Contemporary, being independent  and without the Jerwood Collection, they are now able to spread the art throughout the whole gallery upstairs and downstairs. There are currently three exhibitions, by international artist Tal R – :eventually all museums will be ships; Rob Oxlade – Shine out Fair Sun; and The New Dress – new, idiosyncratic, playful drawings by Sir Quentin Blake  – which at present are not for sale, but things can change.

Roy Oxlade, Black Saucepan and Dish

Roy Oxlade: Black Saucepan and Dish

Playful seems to be the mark of the opening exhibitions. Tal R, born in Israel, now living in Copenhagen, is curious about the world and places, consequently his practice is constantly evolving. Also his work is seen in far-flung places from where he work. He loves the sea and was thrilled see the Hastings fishing boats on the shore, but the title :eventually all museums will be ships serendipitously coincides with the concept of the launch of the new gallery.

Gilmore explains: “Ships are safe in the harbour but that’s not what they they’re for; they need to adventure into new, wild lands. Artists need to create and recreate afresh.” And that is her and the gallery’s aspiration.

Tal R’s work is dark and strange, exploring the everyday, his family, his family home, portraits and abstracts, drawings and paintings, which chimes well with Roy Oxlade’s work, drawings and paintings of the domestic world around him – with nudes of his wife, Rose Wylie, the inaugural artist at the launch of the Jerwood Gallery.

The three exhibitions reflect Tal R’s quote written in the gallery: “What does it mean to play? I like to think of it as putting a stone in somebody’s shoe, you go in and you walk around, you look at the exhibition, and you might walk out, saying ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘I like this,’ it’s not real different as long as you leave with a stone in your shoe.”

How successful Hastings Contemporary will prove, who knows? It will rely on funding and attracting good, creative contemporary artists. It is a new venture leaving port, the building exists, one can only wish them safe voyage.


Tal R, eventually all museums will be ships, is open until 13 October, Roy Oxlade, Shine Out Fair Sun, and Quentin Blake, The New Dress, until 6 October. Hastings Contemporary, Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings TN34 3DW. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm.

Posted 19:08 Wednesday, Jul 3, 2019 In: Visual Arts


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  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    It has always been a topic of conversation about having to pay an entry fee if you wish to visit the cafe. There has to be a way round this ridiculous rule. The gallery is a welcome addition to Hastings and definitely spruced up the area but …….why are we expected to pay to enter the building to have a coffee and then pay again for the refreshments?
    Also the suggestion that the gallery could display other art forms is worth thinking about.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Jul 9, 2019 @ 15:04

  2. Patrick Burton

    With many others I was an early and active supporter of the Jerwood. The Foundation has more than fulfilled its promise of building a beautiful gallery, showing its collection and putting on some very exciting exhibitions, as well as developing a number of educational programmes.
    I’m sure I’m not the only resident to be very perplexed by the sudden disappearance of the Foundation’s support for a gallery which it built at its own expense in spite of provocative opposition by a small but vocal minority of locals, supported financially and from the beginning indicated that it was committed to in the long term.

    It would have been interesting for the article to have asked the Jerwood’s take on the issue. Did they, as suggested, simply walk away, without explanation, after such an effort to build in the first place? I understand that part of the Foundation’s criticism was that the gallery management was un-business-like. Is that correct?

    Although it is difficult to quantify, I feel that it has had a positive cultural, educational and economic effect on the town. The funding for the re-development of the Stade was dependent on the Jerwood project, and judging by the year-long weekend crowds, it certainly hasn’t caused the drop in tourism predicted by its detractors.

    I suspect it hasn’t drawn in the predicted audience, partly because of the cost of entry for outside town visitors. Unlike in other countries, because we have so many free entrance galleries and museums, like the Turner Margate and Towner Eastbourne, the public is reluctant to pay.

    Has the gallery engaged enough with the cultural life of the town? If not, maybe because of funding requirements and its new independence it will become more integrated in future and show the work of more local artists, by themed shows and perhaps by an annual or biannual ‘open’. Also, many people here have private collections of interesting modern work. Could they be asked to lend? And why must its remit be limited to British artists? And should it engage more with other art forms?

    I hope we all wish the Hastings Contemporary well. But there must be a concern about its long term funding. Anyway, good luck!

    Comment by Patrick Burton — Thursday, Jul 4, 2019 @ 10:27

  3. gillian metcalfe

    Exciting! Can’t wait to see how it all pans out. Great news that we can now take in more visitors free of charge, and look forward to the day when entrance fees are a bit lower. Bon Voyage, Hastings Contemporary!

    Comment by gillian metcalfe — Thursday, Jul 4, 2019 @ 08:58

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